Costumes, Halloween, and The Self

I recently heard a friend glumly describe Halloween as “a bunch of people buying costumes from Wal-mart and dressing like sluts.”

She said these words as if they were poison in her mouth.  But I love the idea of a holiday when one wears a disguise, for a couple of reasons.

Be Someone Else

We are often told by television and the culture to “be ourselves” as though
there was some authentic person that we could all just default to.  I don’t
know that being “yourself” is always possible.  The self is dynamic.  My
12-year-old self could not have written this post and my 30-minutes-from-now
self will be tired and disappointed in the ideas that are fresh in this post
now.

You can’t be the same thing everyday. Why not have at least one day out of
the year to be someone else.

Fewer Rules Mean Greater Freedom

It¹s true that men and women often dress in a more sexual way on Halloween
than on other days.

Great! I think if people are dressing differently on a holiday it is because
there is a desire in the culture to have a time and place where a more frank
kind of dress is appropriate.  Some will argue that those who dress sexually
do so because societal forces push them in that direction not because they
actually desire to express themselves in a more sexual way, I have trouble
agreeing.

We may find some costumes tawdry or in poor taste, but I think having a
culturally accepted day when people can dress absurdly whether it is sexual
mineral or vegetable is a good thing. I don¹t want to tear down all the
social rules and have an anarchy, but I think a few fewer rules once in a
while is more than healthy.

Clothes Have Power Beyond There Appearance

As a swimmer I can tell you that I felt ready to work out as soon as I had
my suit on, in a business suit I feel the same way about another kind of
work, and in a suit of armor or some other ridiculous costume I can feel
ready to work on something different.

Think about the expression “how you see yourself.” The face value meaning is
about how one perceives their own person but what we are literally talking
about is the visual act of seeing yourself.  So tomorrow, I suggest you get
a costume (from Wal-mart or whereever you want) and try and see yourself as
something else.

It is the nice thing about the self you can change it.

Halloween Playlist (No Monster Mash)

1) Thriller – Michael Jackson

You will probably hear this song six times on Halloween.  Not because DJs can be lazy, because this is what you need to hear.  There is a reason this won best music video for years on end.  There’s a reason even children in rural Indonesia know this dance.  Its one of the greatest songs of all time and on Halloween it gets its due.

2) I Put A Spell on You – Screaming Jay Hawkins

While a fine musician, it’s rare that you get the chance to play Screaming Jay Hawkins at a party. There’s a reason for that too, but relish this chance.  I put a spell on you has been done by Nina Simone, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Better Midler, but the Hawkins version is the weirdest. On Halloween weirdest should win.

3) Run – Gnarles Barkley

This song is like being in a horror movie with a fantastic DJ.  There is something about songs with up, happy beats and scary words that always gets me.  Cee-lo’s voice is soaring and strange. He’s trained enough to have a killer range and command of songs and distinctive enough to immediately recognizable.  This might be my favorite song on this list and I still haven’t talked about the amazing organ lick yet.

4) Skeletons – Lifesavas

I always thought pastors and priests were the best at telling ghost stories.  They are invested in trying to scare you straight from the first time they talk to you.  So when lifsavas, a hip hop group with Christian themes say get your skeletons out of your closet or else, that or else carries the weight of the hell fires. It’s not just the children’s choir sample that makes this song freaky, or the weird half harpsichord half organ sounding beat. It’s the possibility of a Night on Bald Mountain style eternal damnation.

5) The Horror – RJD2

There are a lot of techno or hip hop producers that sample movies.  It’s the rare producer who can turn those samples into its own moody and gripping narrative.  RJD2 “The Horror” is spooky but more importantly its funky.

6) Psycho Killer – Talking Heads

This is another example of contrasting lyrics to melody and beat. There is no reason this song should be about a Psycho Killer.  If you didn’t speak English you wouldn’t know this song was about a murderer. The only thing you would have to clue you in would be that menacing baseline that starts the song out.

7) Sky is Falling – Blackalicious

You know what’s scary?  The Coming Apocolypse.  There are not enough hip hop songs about this.  Busta Rhymes and Blackalicious might have the market cornered on this topic, if so its in good hands.

8) Ghost of Steven Foster – Squirrel Nut Zippers

The vocal quality of this song is enough to give me the creeps.  Even when I am listening to this crooner take on love songs I can get spooked out.  I loved this song as a kid for its strange lyrics and spooky tune.  I still love it now and when I listen to it I can get sent back to that time.

9) Everyone’s Got em’ – White Ghost Shivers

Any White Ghost Shivers song could have gone on this list.  So I just picked my favorite. If you don’t know the Shivers you need to make a trip down to Austin and see them play, or join me in begging them to play in Chicago.

10) I Turned into a Martian – The Misfits

The obvious choice here would have been Halloween.  But I like I turned into a martian better.  It’s more like the kind of song I would have written when I was on a six grade sugar rush.  Sadly in the six grade I hadn’t yet formed a horror punk band.

11) Devil’s Pie – D’Angelo

If anyone is qualified to write about the fearsome nature of money success and fame its D’Angelo.  Here’s a man who could of had as much pie and cake as he could stomach and walked away from it. The world loved him for his song about the corrupting power of money and fame.  But after releasing the album that featured this song he stepped out of the spotlight.  “I ain’t going out for a slice of the Devil’s Pie”

12) Chase the Devil – Lee “Scratch” Perry

I might have said that preachers tell the best ghost stories but that’s not true.  Mad men tell the best ghost stories, and Lee Perry had to be at least a little crazy to invent scratching records and burn down his legendary recording studio.  But this song isn’t about being scared.  Its about getting that evil bastard once and for all.  “When I catch him my lance in hand/ And if him slip I’m gone with his hand.” How do you like that Devil? Shoe’s on the other foot.

Happy Halloween folks